'Very expensive' transport bill facing Shrewsbury Health Hub plans, says leader
A leader has said a "very expensive" bill must be factored in by bosses of a controversial health "super hub" project after a council confirmed it will not be funding bus services to it.
The proposed Shrewsbury Health and Wellbeing Hub - a project which would involve moving six GP surgeries into one new facility - has drawn criticism and sparked protests for several reasons, including transport concerns.
The preferred location of NHS Shropshire, Telford and Wrekin bosses ICS was revealed to be land near Shrewsbury Town FC's Montgomery Waters Meadow in Oteley Road, Meole Brace. Several Shrewsbury councillors said their constituents had expressed worries about getting to the new hub, given the lack of public transport.
ICS bosses have previously said that transport to the new hub would be the responsibility of Shropshire Council however, after a question from Belle Vue councillor Kate Halliday about transport at a meeting last week, the authority's infrastructure portfolio holder Dean Carroll said: "While the council can support with mapping and options and link to transport providers, Shropshire Council will not be funding transport to the site. It is likely that there would need to be an ongoing revenue commitment as part of the proposal to support transport, but until the development proposals are defined for a particular site, the details of the transport need will not be clear."
Speaking after the meeting, Councillor Halliday, who is chair of a Shrewsbury Town Council working group set up to scrutinise the health hub project, said: "Shropshire Council have given a clear response to my question and confirmed that they will not fund bus routes to the proposed hub. There appears to be disagreement about how transport, which will be essential for patients to access their GPs, will be funded.
"It seems that the ICS will need to build in costs of new bus services into the overall costs of the hub. With the preferred site being on Oteley Road, this could be very expensive, and I do not think that the current plans can be economically viable. I continue to call for alternative options to the super hub proposals. I have asked for a meeting with NHS England to understand why the only option Shrewsbury is being given for improving GP surgeries is for a ‘super hub’. I would prefer the option of building on the existing surgeries where we can, and building a new surgery on Oteley Road for the growing population there, which is more in line with models in other areas in Shropshire and in England as a whole."
A consultation on plans for the hub have been postponed as bosses "review additional option". Shrewsbury Town Council voted unanimously in favour of a motion calling for a meeting to put health leaders "face to face" with the public.
A spokesperson from NHS Shropshire, Telford and Wrekin said: “We are still developing our proposals and options around the location of the Shrewsbury Health and Wellbeing Hub site and are now exploring a range of alternative options with regard to the location of the development.
“An options appraisal process will be carried out with a range of stakeholders, including patients, and an Integrated Impact Assessment (IIA) will be produced once we have a clearer idea of the potential options.
“The IIA will include a full travel and access analysis and will help us to understand any potential negative impact the hub’s location could have on patients, residents, and particularly vulnerable groups. This will ensure we are aware of the affects the proposal could have and how we can lessen this impact as much as possible.
“Working with Shropshire Council, as well as other key partners in this programme, we are committed to ensuring that the best possible solution is being progressed for consultation with our patients and the wider community.”